There are many factors that determine the way in which a building, premises or environment is built, commissioned, altered and operated. If you are in the property business, a service provider or an employer, you will want to know how the Equality Act (EA) affects you and how you can best respond to ensure that your interests are met within affordable costs. You will want to have the confidence that any investment in this respect will produce results and provide a strong defence from any claim that might arise in the future, as such, the EA could be viewed as a threat to your business. However, managed carefully it could be an opportunity to enlarge your market and increase your profitability.
It must be borne in mind that the EA is a civil rather than building led legislation. It is the activity that falls under the Act, not the building. The building either enables or disables a person from accessing services or employment. Whilst any architect or designer has a professional responsibility to provide advice on best practice, it is the service provider and employer who will ultimately bear responsibility under the act. Therefore, before embarking on an extensive programme of works, it is important to grasp the intentions of the Act; services and employment should be available to disabled people in a manner comparable to able-bodied people.
There are many considerations regarding disabled people’s needs that can be assessed and reasonable measures implemented to meet the likely requirements of the legislation, premises and operational policies alike. By understanding the business operation, of which the building is a primary component, you can ensure equality in service, establishing, recording and programming what would be reasonable within a specific context.
Any changes required should be reasonable and practical. Public bodies have an additional duty to ensure that measures are in place to provide equality, to the extent where, this may require additional measures for disabled people to ensure they receive equality in service.
When considering the legislation is must be borne in mind that we are not Mr. Average, we grow old, are tall, short, fat and thin and have children who will affect our needs and influence our demands and many will suffer from temporary disabilities. Wheelchair users only account for 5% of disabled people and there is a huge variety of needs for people with disabilities, such as, sensory impairments, dexterity, cognitive impairments, health issues, perception of risk and short stature, to name a few. At JSA we can assist you to understand what the legislation means to you, your staff and users within your anticipated demographics.